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Judge Hidalgo Talks Astrodome Renovation, Gas Prices In Texas Go Up, Senate Fails To Approve Measures To End Shutdown, And More

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
Alvaro 'Al' Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Judge Hidalgo Talks Astrodome Renovation

Lina Hidalgo was on Houston Matters Thursday to talk about her goals as Harris County Judge and said she is evaluating the plan to renovate the Houston Astrodome because the allocated budget isn't enough to provide air conditioning for the historic venue.

The current plan for the Astrodome entails building two levels of parking and raising the floor of the iconic sports venue.

Talking to host Craig Cohen, Hidalgo said that at this moment she wants to make sure is that the current plan "is fiscally responsible, that it will actually, with the funds that have been committed to it, that it will actually get us to a point where the Astrodome is self sustaining."

"What I'm discovering is that the 105 (million dollars) that was allocated is not enough to air condition the building," said Hidalgo, who also noted the Astrodome can't be demolished because it has received the designation of a Texas historic landmark.

Gas Prices In Texas Go Up

The statewide gas price average increased in Texas for a second straight week and is now at $1.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel, according to the AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch. That price is six cents more than this day last week and is 34 cents less per gallon compared to this day last year.

Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed in Texas, drivers in Midland are paying the most on average at $2.45 while drivers in Lubbock are paying the least at $1.90 per gallon.

The increase in gas prices has been attributed to rising crude oil prices by market analysts. Crude oil prices will be a dominant factor towards determining if drivers will see slightly cheaper or more expensive pump prices in the coming weeks. Crude oil prices have increased since the beginning of the year.

The U.S. Capitol.
The U.S. Capitol.

Senate Fails To Approve Measures To End Shutdown

After an at times heated debate, the Senate Thursday, as expected, failed to approve either of two competing measures that would have ended the standoff over border wall funding.

The votes came on day 34 of the partial government shutdown, which has left some 800,000 federal employees without their second straight paycheck — which many would have received Friday in the absence of the shutdown.

The first vote, on a proposal by President Trump to provide $5.7 billion for a border wall as well as changes in immigration law received 50 votes in favor, with 47 senators voting against it.

The second proposal, sponsored by Senate Democrats, would have provided for two weeks of operating money for the government but no funds for a wall while discussions on border security continued. It received 52 votes in its favor and 44 senators opposed it.

Both measures needed 60 votes to advance.

Houston’s Rothko Chapel will begin a multi-year renovation process starting in March.

Rothko Chapel Closes In March For Major Renovations

The Rothko Chapel will be closed to the public most of the year for renovations, which begin March 4. It's the start of a multi-year overhaul to the two-acre grounds in the Museum District.

The centerpiece of the venue, founded by John and Dominique de Menil in 1971, is the space where visitors can view fourteen large, dark-hued canvases by painter Mark Rothko. One of the biggest changes involves the lighting there. There's a skylight overhead allowing natural light to fall on the canvases. And over it there's a baffle – a structure muting the light considerably.

The chapel is expected to reopen by mid-December along with a new welcome center in the works.

The renovations include planting indigenous river birch tree around the perimeter of the property to enhance the sense of a protected space.

Adjacent bungalows that currently house the chapel's administrative offices will be removed to make way for a new meditation garden.